Pre-Game

Gameday: Nets @ Raptors in Montreal

For the latest in Raptors land, have your Morning Coffee.

The Brooklyn Nets is what happens when gambles don’t pay off. The slow path to recovery and respectability means they’re now relying on the veteran presence of DeMarre Carroll to extract the franchise out of the depths of darkness. The good news for them is Allen Crabbe, D’Angelo Russell, and Jarrett Allen offer hopes of not being as bad as they’re used to. Unfortunately for them, this happens to be one of those rare years where they own their own pick. In some previews they’re finishing 10th in the East ahead of the Cavs, Magic, Bulls, Knicks and Hawks, which means that dividends associated with being bad may be muted.

I should also mention that I am writing this preview wearing a Nets shirt. Yes, I own one. It was $5 at SVP Sports and it was a legit high quality Adidas shirt, which I could not refuse. But for the Nets logo plastered on it, it would’ve retailed for $35. Brand matters, they taught me in business school.

The optimism around this club knows no bounds. The main worry all summer was whether Kawhi Leonard would embrace the city and his new teammates, and the early reviews point to unprecedented satisfaction levels, with long-time teammate Danny Green offering up some insights:

He’s definitely more vocal than he’s ever been, on and off the court. It looks like he feels comfortable. It looks like he feels at home. He’s talking to guys, he’s leading by example. In the huddles, he’s chiming in, saying what he feels, saying his opinion. Before, he didn’t really show or tell his opinion much… He’s leading vocally more than ever before.

You can go ahead and print that quote and frame it next to your TV. Credit to whatever the club has done to make someone who could best be described as reluctantly compliant to be this engaged. It’s early days and we must throw caution to the winds (WTF does that saying even mean?), but signs are positive. I also wonder if Danny Green being a sort of a translator for Kawhi is a permanent thing or just a training camp one. It would be quite entertaining if Green keeps popping up next to Kawhi after every game and translates the latter’s reserved mumblings into sentences after short, abrupt pauses, kind of like one of those UN translators.

This brings us to one of our marquee matchups, Kawhi vs Carroll, which we should get a taste of for a few minutes. I’m only mentioning this because it’s a pre-season game in Montreal against the Nets and there’s little to take from it, so subplots are the key to enjoyment. The Nets are a young, athletic team which struggles to score in the half-court set, but can score in bunches when they’re loose on the break. Their preference for a track meet should test the Raptors transition defense and this may be a game where, if the second half is truly bench time, be quite entertaining.

The best use of this game is confidence building, gelling, and experimenting with lineups and patterns, so here’s five things you could watch out for:

  1. Norman Powell continuing the momentum from the Melbourne game against a real team after being declared fit.
  2. Danny Green firing from three early and often to get his rhythm going (4-13 3FG, 31%).
  3. Kawhi Leonard getting comfortable with his positioning and general flow, specifically his interplay with Kyle Lowry and how he uses big man screens.
  4. Serge Ibaka hitting a few threes, he’s only 1-5 in three games, and is averaging 1 per 9 minutes, instead of his usual average of 1 per 7 minutes.
  5. Substitution patterns in the first and second quarters to see if Nurse has an affinity for hockey lineup changesfull podcast here.

Some interesting characters on the Nets roster with Raptors history as well. We mentioned Carroll, but there’s also Ed Davis, who you may recall was once positioned as the guy to pair with Chris Bosh to lead us somewhere. Thought he never played for the Raptors, Kenneth Faried may as well have considering how many times he was used in the trade machine with Toronto as the destination.

All that being said, this is an Atlantic Division “clash”, and you should take some comfort in knowing that the division is far from the joke it used to be. You could argue that with Toronto, Boston, and Philadelphia, it can legitimately offer to be the deepest division in the league. The Knicks and Nets hanging around should not make winning the division any less prestigious, and as you know, we’ve hung that banner in years where it meant a lot less. ESPN has the Celtics winning it this year, but 888 Sport is one of the latest brands to enter the lucrative online sports betting arena, and is offering futures where you can think otherwise.

We should mention that this game does mark the return of Chris Boucher to Montreal. After recovering from a torn ACL, he’s fighting Eric Moreland for a two-way spot. You would imagine that Moreland might have an edge just based on NBA experience alone (played 67 games for the Pistons last season). Moreland has played 15 minutes this preseason, whereas Boucher has played 5. Good luck to both. If nothing is settled after pre-season, I say the next step in breaking this tie is UFC.

The game is at Bell Centre with tipoff at 7 PM. Singles can be had for about $60.

Enjoy the game!

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